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Family Law

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09 FEB 2007

PRIVACY: Lord Browne of Madingley v Associated Newspapers [2007] EWHC 202 (QB)

(Queen's Bench Division; Eady J; 9 February 2007)

The claimant was group chief executive of BP. The claimant's former homosexual partner went to the press with various pieces of information about the claimant and their relationship. The claimant sought to restrain publication of the allegations by his former partner, on the ground that they were matters in respect of which he had a reasonable expectation of privacy, and/or because they had been communicated to journalists in breach of a duty of confidence. The matters included allegations about discussion of information concerning BP strategy, misuse of BP funds, the bare fact of the relationship, discussion of confidential BP matters and documents, and conversations about colleagues in BP. There was an issue as to whether the claimant should be denied all relief because he had lied to the court about the circumstances in which he had met the former partner.

The court had to balance whether or not matters were of public interest and the extent to which the claimant's right to a private life under Art 8 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms 1950 was being breached. There was no evidence of any public interest in throw away remarks about strategy made in private circumstances, and the private expression of views by the claimant about colleagues would have no public interest; neither should be published. However, information about misuse of BP resources was of public interest (if untrue the claimant would have a remedy in libel damages), there was no longer a reasonable expectation that the fact of the relationship should be kept private because it had been known to others although not published in the media, and there was no legitimate expectation of privacy in relation to discussions about confidential BP matters.

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